Islam was a very popular religious belief that had followers from all around, but we ask why it spread so quickly over a short period of time. There were different factors that had allowed Islamic beliefs to cover such a large area so quickly.
The Islam religion started with a man named Muhammad. A tough childhood, losing his parents at an early age and working as a merchant most of his life . He retreated to a cave in a near mountain. He said it was there that he received his first revelation from God at age 40. Three years after the revelation he began preaching publicly. He had gained few followers early on and was met with hostility from Meccan tribes. After 8 years he had gained up to 10,000 followers who fought by his side to take control of Mecca. Muhammad later fell ill and had passed away. By the time of his death, a lot of the Arabian Peninsula had converted over to Islam. It was feared that after his death all Muhammad’s work may have just disappeared and unraveled, because he didn’t have a successor and there was no division within the umma to make a new leader. Muhammad’s advisers chose a caliph to continue the beliefs. Since Muhammad was the seal of prophets which mean no one could succeed him since he was the last person to speak with god directly, his advisers chose his close friend Abu Bakr to be the first caliph.
The role of the caliph was to be a deputy, or a person to keep everything inline in a sense. They led not as prophets but purely as substitute to Muhammad. Under the leadership of Bakr the umma went on an offensive against the people who renounced faith after Muhammad’s death. During the century after Muhammad’s death many towns and bedouin clans that had recently accepted faith, withdrew their faith. Islamic armies carried their religious views and authority throughout Arabia and Byzantine and Sassanian territories and even further. The Muslim armies were effective because they were unified under Islam and they chose to attack carefully waiting for they cities they were going to attack were occupied with other issues. The armies took Byzantine Syria and Palestine, most of mesopotamia, Egypt, North Africa they also added Persia onto their expanding empire. The military aspect is important to include in answering how did it get so popular so fast because without the armies taking so much land the expansion of religion can not really happen. They gained so many people to follow Islam.
During this rapid expansion they did however encounter problems governance. The selection of new caliphs was a main issue with so much new territory. They did manage to find a solution, they allowed the leaders of the most powerful arab clans to appoint the first 4 caliphs. Through the political ambitions, personal differences and clan loyalties allowed for factions to form within the Islamic community. The social aspect spread the religious views through forcing people to convert. A good example would be the Umayyad dynasty. They would capture people and give them the choice to either convert to Islam or they would be forced to pay a very large tax called a Jizya. The popularity of the Umayyad empire declined because instead of being purely religious they were more interested in luxurious living.
Although there was downsizing among the Umayyad dynasty, they alongside of the Abbasid empires managed to create a zone of trade, exchange and communication. Commerce within this zone served as a vigorous economic stimulus for both the countryside and cities of the Islamic world. When the military would travel around they introduced new plants, animals and agricultural techniques. They would help introduce new crops into difference regions. These introductions helped lead to a drastic increase in food supply. The agricultural techniques also helped lead to a more successful agricultural economy. The increase of food supply led to rapid growth of cities in all parts of the Islamic world.
They also had flourishing markets that had all types of trade opportunities. This specific part of economic growth directly could show why it spread so quickly because if the Islamic towns and cities were growing due to increase in food supply, than so would the religion. More people would lead to more followers. Also banks could tie into allowing more people more opportunities in the Islamic cities, they gave entrepreneurs money to start their businesses. Allowing a reason for more people to move in and follow the religion. Another part of the Islamic economic growth would be the paper industry. After a military battle with a Chinese army, they captured people skilled in paper production and learned from them. By the 10th century mills that produced the paper could be found in Persia, Mesopotamia, Arabia, Egypt and Spain. These mills allowed for the creation of books. Such as the Quran, or guide for a follower of the Islam religion.
The Quran had served as the cornerstone of the Islamic society. They spread the message of allah and provided the teachings of the religion. The Quran stated that religion was easy, just to follow the 5 Pillars of Islam. You must believe that Muhammad is the only prophet of god and to support Allah. You must pray 5 times a day. Fast and pray during the month of Ramadan. It wasn’t required but if the opportunity was given to make a pilgrimage and lastly to give to the poor. They had to follow the Sharia law. The main way that you can see the expansion of Islam through the religious side would be through the missionaries who were called the Sufi. They weren’t strict in religion, but sought to help the poor and to deepen their spiritual awareness. They became so popular because of their piety, devotion and eagerness to minister to the needs of their fellow human beings. The didn’t force mastery of the doctrine, rather they just made it important that you followed Allah. They attracted numerous converts particularly in the lands of Persia and India.
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